Man who set himself on fire on Shinkansen spoke of suicide, says sister

The 71-year-old man who set himself on fire on a Tokaido Shinkansen train on Tuesday told his sister he might kill himself during a phone conversation about 10 days before the incident, The Yomiuri Shimbun was told by the sister.

Identified as Haruo Hayashizaki, the man also complained about his pension benefits. "It's not like I can die in front of the Diet building, right?" his sister, 75, quoted him as saying.

A resident of Tokyo's Suginami Ward, Hayashizaki burned himself to death on a Tokaido Shinkansen train that was passing through Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. A female passenger who was caught up in the incident also died.

Hayashizaki lived on pension benefits after quitting a job at a cleaning company at the end of March, according to his sister. When she called him around June 20 to see how he was doing, he told her: "Only ¥120,000 (S$1,300) is being put into my account as pension benefits each month since I quit. I went to the [pension] office, but I couldn't do anything."

In another phone call a couple of days later, Hayashizaki reportedly said: "I can't survive on my current pension. I've got no choice but to kill myself, I guess."

Hayashizaki was born into a farming family as the 10th of 12 children. After graduating from middle school in his hometown, he came to Tokyo for a job. He got married in his 30s but divorced after his oldest daughter died as a child. A steel company that he worked for went bankrupt when he was in his 50s, which forced him into a hard life.

Hayashizaki bought about seven liters of gasoline and a 20-liter portable metal container at a gas station near his house a day before the incident, according to the Kanagawa prefectural police, who are investigating the incident.

They also found that the liquid he had carried onto the train in a plastic container was gasoline. The police believe Hayashizaki transferred the gasoline he purchased at the gas station to the plastic container and then took it onto the train, according to sources.